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The renewed push to cut direct emissions from primary production is not only important from an environmental perspective, but also financially as Europe moves towards a new regime of industry emission benchmarks, with aluminium set at 1.5 tonnes of CO2-equivalents per tonne metal produced.

With free emission allowances for top performers when the new European emissions trading scheme (ETS) comes into force in 2013, there will be a strong incentive for industry players to reduce their carbon footprint and thereby reducing costs.

“Simply put, the new European quota trading scheme will award those that are best in class and penalize those that are not, and it should be obvious to everyone in which group we want to belong,” said Tom Petter Johansen, head of the Norwegian Smelters unit in Hydro's Primary Metal business area.

“Although we have not reached the benchmark just yet, the impressive results over the last years make me confident that we are there by 2013,” he added.

Cuts already amount to one million cars, more to come

In 2009, the average emission level of CO2-equivalents from Hydro’s fully-owned Norwegian smelters at Sunndal, Årdal, Høyanger and Karmøy slipped just below two tonnes per tonne metal produced, down from around five tonnes in 1990 and 2.5 tonnes in 2000.

“With a total production from these smelters last year of about 740,000 tonnes, this represents an annual reduction of 2.22 million tonnes CO2-equivalents compared to the 1990-level, which is equal to taking one million cars off the road,” Johansen pointed out.

The strong improvement have not only come both through closures of outdated Søderberg lines, but also through systematic work to reduce anode effect and anode consumption.

Through further process improvements, control system adjustments and more stable operations thanks to the Hydro's aluminium metal production system, Johansen is confident that there is much more to come.

“Based on the determination and strong efforts made both from our employees at the plants and within the R&D-community to curb emissions from the electrolysis, I am convinced that we will shortly become the global leader in this area,” Johansen said.

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